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Fulton's men get revved up for their Rio glory bid

By Graham Hamilton

Ireland's men kick-off their build-up to the Rio Olympics today. The schedule for their training camp in Cape Town has been finalised, and the high-intensity programme will include eight games in 11 days as well as brushing up on set-pieces and tactics.

Craig Fulton's men, who touched down under the shadow of Table Mountain on Monday, will face Canada four times, Belgium twice, Spain once and hosts South Africa once.

While we are shivering in temperatures of just five degrees and dodging the heavy rain, the 25-strong squad stepped off the plane to sunny weather with temperatures soaring to almost 30.

Billed as a warm-weather training camp, that's certainly what it's going to be. And that pleases the coach, who is trying to ensure this two-week trip will replicate most things - including tournament conditions - for his players when they finally arrive in Rio during the summer.

Already the squad have settled in at the President Hotel in Cape Town's Bantry Bay and have started training to shake off the weariness of the long journey.

Next up will be set-piece ploys and then comes the eight internationals inside an 11-day period.

First up is Canada this afternoon (8pm our time) and again on Friday (6pm), before Spain on Saturday (6pm) and South Africa on Sunday (10pm).

It's Canada again next Monday (10pm) and next Tuesday (8pm), with Belgium completing the series on January 23 and 24.

Twelve Ulstermen are among the 26-strong squad, including Paul Gleghorne who was outstanding not only in the World League 2 series from which the Irish booked their place to the Olympics for the first time, but also at the European championships where they became the first Ireland men's side to win the bronze medals.

Neal Glassey, who has impressed since his summer move to Lisnagarvey, has been added to the squad, bringing the Ulster contingent up to a dozen.

The players were saddened to hear about the passing of former Irish Hockey President Herbie Sharman after a long battle with leukaemia.

Meanwhile, there is still no Irish Hockey League programme but there is a full Ulster schedule.

The big game is the Premier League clash between unbeaten leaders Instonians and the Portadown side who are still in the hunt for the third play-off place from which they could gain entry to the all-Ireland set-up.

There's also a big clash in the Senior League, with unbeaten leaders Bangor going to third-placed Campbellians, the team they recently defeated in the Linden Cup final.

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